Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Last Dental Dinner, at the Victoria Park Golf Complex

Victoria Park Golf Complex

I've long ago given up any desire to remain mysterious/secretive on this blog. Yes folks, I am a flesh and blood human with a real life outside of writing restaurant reviews and amateur cooking attempts on the internet. At the moment, most of my time is taken up by uni but if all goes to plan, that will come to an end after 5 exhausting and long years.


Between now and then, I'm knocking down small milestones. Last written exam, ever. Last day at the dental school, ever. So on.

L: writer and R: head chef of this blog ;)

This past weekend contained my last dental dinner. This is an annual event for all students and staff of the Bachelor of Dental Science and Bachelor of Oral Health at the University of Queensland. I think I missed one in first year but have attended religiously ever since. My social life has now disintegrated to the point where dent dinner and my birthday are the only 2 occasions per year that provide an excuse to dress up.


Traditionally, the 4th year students organize the event and this year, it was held at the Victoria Park Golf Complex. It was my first time there and because food, service and ambiance are all involved, it makes sense for me to write a review about it.

Driving range in the background

My first impression of the place was that the grounds are huge. There are several buildings within the complex and we had no idea which way to go. It felt a bit like we were trawling through a theme park at night: walk ways, lights, greenery and putt putt. We were 30min early so killed some time at a random pub (within the complex) and watching balls fly through the driving range. That plus a Brisbane city sky line made for quite an enjoyable half hour.

I'm not sure what the name of our building was but we got there by following other dental students. It's a single long room with a sort of 'tent' feel but much more solid. The interior was dreamy, the result of dimmed lighting interspersed with candles and chandeliers. I really liked the atmosphere they created.

There were sourdough bread rolls on the table as starters. This was accompanied by rolls of creamy butter. Great bread rolls. Crusty outside and soft interior. Likewise compliments to the butter.

Wild mushroom gnocchi, garlic and parsley cream

For food, we had the alternating 3 course menu. My entree was the wild mushroom gnocchi. I've had many a bad gnocchi at restaurants before but this one sounded good and it tasted good. The sauce was very creamy without being too heavy and had a deep, mushroom flavor.

Smoked chicken, fig, frissee salad

The other entree was a smoked chicken salad. I didn't try any of that one.

Pan-fried swordfish, slow-cooked kiphler and olives and red peppers

I had the swordfish for main. It was very average. The fish was woody and dry and the whole thing was crying out for sauce. The mash underneath was also dry and flavorless. I can forgive them for the fish since fish is rarely done well (I think) and even harder to get right in a large, catering event... but poor mashed potato is inexcusable.

Align CenterChar-grilled eye fillet, roasted roma tomato, artichokes on puree potato and salsa verde

Byron had the steak and his primary complaint was that it was overcooked. I guess because they serve the same steak to everyone, they prefer it to be a bit over so that blood-phobic people don't complain? This was well, well done and as a result, about as dry as the fish. We liked the sauce on top though. It reminded me of a McDonalds burger; but in a good way.

I was pretty far gone by the time dessert rolled by thanks to an unlimited bar tab of beer, red and white wine and bubblies. My taste buds might have gotten distorted by then but I'll soldier on ahead with the comments since they're all good.

Callebaut chocolate mousse

There was a chocolate mousse for dessert. It was rich and smooth and served with a bit of cream. Very delicious. Thumbs up.

Lemon meringue, citrus curd, lemon sherbet, mint gelato

The other dessert was a lemon meringue tart. By sheer coincidence, that was exactly what I was in the mood for so I enjoyed this dessert heaps. It came with a mint gelato and that was metaphorically, the icing on the cake. Great desserts.

Desserts were very much devoured

We had a great time at the Victoria Park Golf Complex and I would recommend this place for venue-hire and catering.

DIY Indian Banquet

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Curry Feast at Home
Home Cooking

A week ago, we went to Malaya Corner and 3 of the guys ordered Nasi Lamek. This is, short, a smorgasbord of Indochinese curries, garnishes and sides, all on one plate and served with rice. A reader of this blog told me this was a traditional Malaysian breakfast. Those lucky people :).

Regulars of this blog should know that we love our curry. Mostly Indian, but occasionally Thai. We like eating curry out and we like making it at home. Byron came up with this idea of making a selection of curries and accompaniments and creating a sort of Nasi Lamek experience, but with Indian food.

We decided to live the curry dream last weekend. He and I were in charge of making a curry each. His Sri Lanken housemate helped us with the dhal and our mate Indy took care of rice and made this mad yogurt garnish (made with something green that came out of a bottle labeled 'yogurt garnish').

Byron cooked up a beef and potato curry. My pick was butter chicken. I wanted to use the recipe Jimmy from Masterchef did but we couldn't find my Masterchef magazine (not that we really looked) so I Googled it and found this. I suggest using that link if you want an accurate recipe. What I did was take those ingredients as 'inspiration' and just mucked around a bit adding this and that until the flavors seemed OK.

As a general cue, you do this:
  1. Marinade chicken pieces (I used thigh fillets) in a mixture of Greek yogurt, garam masala and salt. I think they used lemon too but I didn't bother.
  2. Seal the chicken pieces on high in a frying pan and set aside.
  3. In the same frying pan, heat up 2 tablespoons of butter (you're supposed to use ghee but hey, it's butter chicken, not ghee chicken, so I can't be too much in the wrong). Add a tablespoon each of garam masala and tumeric.
  4. Cook some diced onion until translucent and then add about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and 1/2 can of chopped tomato.
  5. Start balancing the flavors by adding more of the garam masala, tomato paste, salt and/or sugar as required.
  6. Stir in around 1/4-1/3 cup of cream and recheck the flavors. When it's all good, return the chicken to the pan and simmer on medium heat for around 15min or until cooked.

I liked that recipe because it's really easy. The original was already straightforward and I made it even easier by cutting out some steps/ingredients. I panicked part way through because I thought my taste buds weren't working (it just tasted bland, no matter what I did) but then I made 2 changes: added more salt and tasted with a teaspoon, rather than scraping a few molecules off the wooden spoon each time. That really helped.

Aside from the curry and dahl, Byron also fried up some roti. I've had roti before but it was nothing like this. Perhaps there's a huge variety of pan-fried bread products that fall under the umbrella term 'roti'? Whatever the case may be, these roti were awesome. Really puffy and layered; soft and crunchy at the same time.

Roti curry taco creation on the grass

The curry feast was quite spectacular and also very filling. As is usual when you OD on curry, I have vowed 'never to eat curry for the rest of my life' (usually lasts a week).

Iced tea mixed (by hand) in a blender

After we had our fill, we needed something refreshing so Byron came up with the idea of iced peach tea. We used up nearly a 1kg (maybe an exaggeration) of ice-cubes trying to cool down the hot tea. There's probably a smarter way to do that but hey. I also broke a teabag into the mix and Byron topped the lot with that yogurt garnish. Yup.

And there ends our Indian adventures.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Yum Cha at Big Gun

Yum Cha at Big Gun
Shop 7/2922 Logan Rd, Underwood

When I last wrote a post for Big Gun, I had a huge response from friends and blog readers alike, claiming that my experience wasn't representative of their standards. The resounding statement was 'but their yum cha was good'. I was nearly so put off by the poor quality of dishes we ordered that I thinking 'STUFF THE YUM CHA' but my duty as an accurate (not rageful) food blogger drove me to give it a go.

All in the pursuit of the truth.

So, last week when mum and dad were thinking about where to go for lunch, I threw Big Gun into the mix of options and that's what they ran with.

We didn't make a booking and were lucky to get a table because the place was pretty packed. After we were seated, a queue started forming so there's a heads up: they're really popular around lunch time.

Below are the items we chose of the carts. I heard from one of my readers (Bonnie) that they make things you don't see in other yum cha places. We went with a few safe classics and I also picked this eggplant dish I've never seen before.

Pork ribs

Glutinous fried rice

Egg tarts

BBQ pork ho fun

Salted pork and century egg congee

Giant chicken steamed bun

Inside of chicken bun

Braised chicken feet

Eggplant ball dish

Almond jelly with fruit

Of all the plates, I didn't like the pork ribs (too bland) or the giant steamed bun much. Everything else was very well made. Fresh, hot and tasty. I really liked that obscure eggplant thing too. There isn't much in the way of service at yum cha because everything tends to be quite rushed but I got a good impression of the service here. I already thought positively of the service last visit but at the yum cha, we were asking around for chicken feet and then someone remembered that we wanted some so came and brought it over... that was nice.

In short, I'm glad I went back to Big Gun to try their yum cha. It was a nice experience and I'd recommend others to go there. In fact, we nearly did go back another time since then but their night time yum cha started too late and my friends were hungry :).
Big Gun Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Japanese Cheesecake

Japanese Cheesecake
Home Cooking


It's official. My history with electronics is POOR. Very, very poor. My 2 previous ones were destroyed from being waterlogged in the kitchen. This recent incident involved me pushing my camera off the kitchen bench. This is usually not a fatal accident (I would know since I do it quite often) but this time, the lens were out and got knocked a bit. As a result, it screwed up the mechanism that shifts the lens in and out. Bye bye zoom function. No hope of focusing on anything besides a set 'x' distance away from the camera.

I got into a frenzied panic and immediately researched and paid for another one online. Within 2-3 hours, my purchase was finalized. I'm now waiting for it to come in the mail. I call THAT impulse buying.

My camera met its fate whilst I was baking a cake. It was real bad timing because the fall occurred just before the finished product. So my final piccies were taken by my iPhone. I have a lot of great things to say about the iPhone but for photo quality, I much prefer a proper point-and-shoot device.

I decided to bake this cake because mum bought one a few weeks back and everyone quite liked it. Japanese cheesecake is a bit like a cross between a cheesecake and sponge cake. The texture is quite light and it's great for people who don't eat cheesecake normally because they think it's too creamy/rich/sweet. I used the recipe from here but divided it by 2 for my version (below) because I didn't have enough cream cheese at home for the full quantity (I used more than 1/2 the quantity though...). In terms of caloric intake, you're better off with this recipe than a standard NY baked.

Japanese Cheesecake
Makes 2 small ones (serves 3-4)

  • 70g package cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 2 heaped tbps white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 and 1/2 tbsp plain flour
  • 3/4 tbsp cornstarch
  • whipped cream, strawberries and kiwi to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celcius. Line 2 small cake pans with baking paper. I used a mini loaf pan and a mini spring-form pan
2. Warm the cream cheese and milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cream cheese is melted. Remove from the heat and set aside.3. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolk and half of the sugar (i.e. 1 heaped tablespoon) until light and fluffy using an electric mixer.4. Fold the cream cheese mixture into the yolks.
5. Sift in the flour and cornstarch, and stir until blended.
6. In a separate bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg white with cream of tartar until it can hold a soft peak. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining sugar and continue whipping to stiff peaks.7. Gently fold egg whites into the cream cheese mixture.8. Pour into the prepared cake pans.9. Place the pans in a larger dish and pour boiling water into the baking dish until it is half way full. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the heat to 150 degrees Celsius. Continue to bake for 10 more minutes. Let the cake cool before removing from the pan.
10. Run a knife around the outer edge of the cake pan, and invert onto a plate to remove the cake. Peel off the parchment paper and invert onto a serving plate so the top of the cake is on top again.11. Decorate by layering the cake with whipped cream, filled with chopped fresh kiwi and strawberries. Spread more cream over the top and present additional fresh fruit. Serve immediately.

Fruit layer

Covered in cream

Final product

The only complaint I got about this cake was "it's much too small". Dad wouldn't believe that I made it myself, rather than buying it from an Asian bakery. It was perfectly light with a hint of cream cheese in the texture. The cake itself wasn't very sweet and worked really well with the whipped cream and fruit.


Best of all, the recipe isn't that hard to follow, especially if you have an electric beater. Aside from the cream and cream cheese, the remainder of the ingredients are standard pantry supplies.

I will definitely be making this one again, only in a larger size next time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

West End Gardens

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West End Gardens

With these posts, I've been trying to alternate between 'Dining Out' and 'Home Cooking' to keep things interesting. I really wanted this to be a cooking post but the fact is, I haven't made any food in a long time and am unlikely to do so for a while. This is what happens when you live with generous parents. I come home after a tiring day of clinic and think "I COULD spend time/effort making food OR eat what's prepared OR go out for food with friends".

This is why I have 2 restaurant reviews back to back. And not only that, they're both about places in West End.

We went out to West End Gardens last Friday for dinner. It was part of the usual routine of indecision followed by 'let's just drive to West End and see what's good'. Byron wanted Govinda's but it was closed. I wanted Little Greek Taverna but it was fully booked. Hien wanted Nandos but I kicked that idea into the bin. We had initially decided 'no Asian' but without anything else that caught the eye, we got lured into the 2 Vietnamese restaurants at the end of the strip. I've already blogged Viet Hoa before so I pushed for the other, which was West End Gardens. It looked a bit posh from the outside but the menu didn't seem to expensive so we ventured in.

I really dug the ambiance of the restaurant. It's undercover but has an outdoors feel, complete with a running waterfall feature. It was a cold night but warm around the dining area because of the abundance of heaters. I actually got a bit too hot so I switched seats with Byron.

The waitresses were very... sleek, slender and poised. They reminded me of the air stewardesses from Singapore Airlines. We were given chilled water with a slice of lemon (fancy!)

Ordering took forever because the menu is quite extensive. Also, Hien complicated things by alternatively suggesting that we get a banquet or that he just wanted a pho. We ended up ordering 3 dishes and coconut rice to share.

Crispy beef - deep-fried beef strips with red wine sauce

I picked the crispy beef strips because I've had something similar before at other restaurants and it was rad. This one was, as Byron accurately pointed out 'once was crispy beef strips'. They weren't very crispy at all and tasted a lot like bog standard sweet and sour pork, but in a different shape. Tasty but nothing spesh.

Cashew chicken

Byron selected cashew chicken. It was quite a clean dish. Tender chicken. The roasted cashews were awesome. Nice to eat but you know, it's cashew chicken. Don't expect your socks knocked off.

Sunshine curry - a mixture of chicken, beef and prawns simmered in a claypot

Our last pick was called 'Sunshine Curry' and the description claimed it contained chicken, beef and prawns. We just tasted 'meat' of some sort (unable to identify whether it was chicken or beef) and there were no prawns. I wouldn't have noticed but Byron was fishing around for them. Maybe we should have complained but it's a difficult thing to prove. It's hard to know WHAT'S in that curry sauce and you can't be certain there are no prawns until you get to the end, at which point it's too late. The curry itself had a nice creaminess and consistency but lacked salt.

Fried ice-cream with chocolate sauce

Hien was dying for dessert so we ordered fried ice-cream for us and Byron got a coconut pudding. The fried ice-cream was a bit on the small side and the coating wasn't a nice, thick sponge layer.

Inside of fried ice-cream

It was a bit thin and by the time it was brought out, the coating was cold and the ice-cream was melting. Still tasted OK but I've had better.

Coconut pudding with vanilla ice-cream

I really hated the coconut pudding. It wasn't what I expected and I couldn't tell what flavors were there but just know for certain that I disliked it. Byron surprised me by saying he actually enjoyed it because it wasn't too sweet. It came with a little ball of ice-cream which he allowed me to eat. That part was good :).

Overall, I liked West End Gardens for the environment and service. It'd be a nice place to have dinner with friends either for a chat or special occasion. It makes you enjoy the food even though when you stop and analyze the plates individually, they aren't exactly amazing. That's what happened to me. I left thinking 'yeh I liked that place' but in hindsight, it was the overall experience that was positive rather than the food itself.